Did you know that in the Azores vines grow on basaltic rock? On Pico Island, vineyards are planted in lava-rich soil, between stone walls, and the grapes are used to make the famous Verdelho, an excellent wine as an aperitif.
It seems strange that such conditions produce such a delicious nectar, but the cultivation of vines on Pico began in the late 15th century when the island was first settled. Thanks to the volcanic soil, rich in nutrients, and the dry, warm microclimate of slopes protected from the wind by walls of rough, dark stone heated by the sun, the Verdelho variety vines have exceptional ripening conditions here. The wine was later exported to many countries in Europe and America. The vineyards that dot the landscape of the island still produce a crisp, fruity, dry, and mild wine that is an ideal companion to a plate of seafood or fish, as well as the vinho de cheiro (fragrant wine) that is so popular at tables on feast days.
These lands, the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture, combining their volcanic nature and ancestral cultivation practices, were classified by UNESCO in 2004 as World Heritage. Lajido da Criação Velha and Lajido de Santa Luzia are the best examples of this art of dividing the land that this title recognizes. The vines planted in the lava rock are tightly enclosed by dry stone walls in plots called currais or curraletas, which are protected from the sea wind but let in the sunshine necessary for their maturation.
Other testimonies to winegrowing activities are the rilheiras, ruts left by the wheels of ox carts carrying the grapes and barrels, and in the harbors and coves along the coast the rola-pipas, ramps excavated by the sea, along which the barrels of wine were rolled before being transported in boats to Faial. There is also a built heritage associated with vine cultivation, which includes manor houses, wine cellars, warehouses, tidal wells, convents, and chapels, all worth a visit during your stay on Pico.
Once you’ve appreciated the design of this gigantic stone labyrinth by the seaside, it’s time to taste the wine. Dry or sweet and comforting, it tastes even better in a picturesque winery. In the Pico Wineries, sometimes adapted to rural tourism, the volcanic stone walls are intertwined with the sea and the vegetation. The living memory of the Verdelho cycle has found a new chapter in the Wine Museum. This is in Madalena, a former Carmelite convent, with a collection of tools, stills and vats. Its leafy forest of dragon trees gives extra scenic attraction to the wine press that has stood the test of time.
Pico wines have a tradition. VLQPRD (fortified wines), aperitifs, table wines, whites, reds, Vinho de Cheiro, Angélica and Pico spirits can be found in any restaurant or grocery store, making it easy to taste them and take them with you.
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